Saturday, March 29, 2008

Form-filling, Obama, I want to drink small stout and other miscellanies

He is concentrating hard, his tongue stuck out, his brow furrowed. He writes in answer after answer and then turns the page. I wonder what the form he is filling in is for. And I realize that I like filling in forms- have done ever since I was a child. I liked making sure that I had the correct ink- usually black and I liked forming the letters in clearly aligned blocks, listing my first name, my middle name, then the surname and then all the other personal details that the form demands. I have plenty of opportunity these days to fulfil my form-filling desires- what with visa forms and landing cards and applications for mortgages and now job applications....or rather applying for "new roles" as our HR people put it... Watching the young man struggle with his form, I realize that I am probably that rarity- a bureaucrat's dream, someone who actually likes form-filling...

The plumber tells me he's got a visa to relocate to Australia. He doesn't like this country any more, he says, it's all going downhill. He's Sarf London born and bred and I was introduced to him by a colleague some four years ago. He's done most of the plumbing work I've needed done and has introduced me to electricians and other workers that I've needed. We have had a good relationship and yet I am scared to ask him what he really means, and so refrain and wish him good luck, as he gets into his white van....

To dinner in Spitalfields, an area whose funk I like. As I approach the flat of the City couple who have invited me, I spot a group of Bangladeshi elders white-bearded, leaving the house next door, perhaps heading for evening prayers. In the distance, the Hawksmoor church gleams white in the dying light, as a dreadlock-headed brother pauses to touch fists with me. I can see why they like living here, trustafarians and arty types- it's edgy and vibrant, but I fear that the more City types move in, the more that vibe'll be lost, as happened in Notting Hill years before I'm told...

At dinner, a mouthwatering simple spaghetti in a rich meaty, tomatoey spiced with just a hint of chilli, the talk is of Obama and his race speech. When my white English host confesses that he had wondered what the fuss was about Reverend Wright's speech was, I feel like hugging him. I too had wondered at the shock and the backlash- thinking that perhaps he had advocated the extermination of all white people or some such radical talk- and was surprised to read views that did not seem radically different from what some of my leftish American classmates had expressed a few years ago...

I have just finished Anton Gill's Peggy Guggenheim: The Life of an Art Addict ahead of a planned visit to Venice later in the year. It is well-written and gave me new insights into the world of modernism and impressionism and the building of art collections, although it took me a while to get through and could perhaps have been a touch lighter in tone...

I am reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's The Caged Virgin: A Muslim woman's plea for reason and so far I am not impressed. I'm not sure whether it is the translator's fault but the writing is staccato, the ideas are not fully developed and the pieces seem cobbled together, some of them reading like a B grade essay by an undergraduate for their social science class. There are flashes of brilliance and poignant personal insights but so far I'm not impressed....

In Nigeria, some good and not so good- the resignation of the health ministers and their investigation by the EFCC is welcome, as is the investigation of Iyabo Obasanjo Bello, the chair of the senate health committee; but this article in Sahara reporters, innuendo or not, I found slightly worrying. The governorship elections in Kogi State being repeated today following the annulment of the previous elections is welcome but the fact that the two front-runners are the two immediate past governors is less heartening

Petina Gappah writes a beautiful piece for the Mail and Guardian inspired by an amazing photograph, which is truncated and rendered almost meaningless by the Guardian in the UK

Meanwhile I was much tickled by this "gospel comedy" song from Nigeria- not just the rhythm and the lyrics, but the concepts behind it....

7 comments:

goy said...

Enjoy Venice and the Gug - but be warned, the mosquitoes are vicious in the summer, and the canal tends to...smell (just a bit, though) when it gets really warm.

Oh, and make sure you have a decent map - the labyrinthine streets are a nightmare!

Jaja said...

Lovely Piece from Gappah...

Morountodun said...

I once had a guy come in to look at my boiler and he was reminiscing about the days of the british empire. I couldn't kick him out fast enough.

Driving around New Jersey a couple of years ago we came across a neighbourhood with a lot of Confederate flags. FGor some strange reason I didn't feel quite welcome...

Ms. Catwalq said...

Uknaija, Oh Uknaija. where hast thou been oh Uknaija?

uknaija said...

@thanks goy, will try to. Have been before though, just never made it to the Gug, and hopefully will get there before summer proper and avoid the 'squitoes and stench
@jaja- loved it too. Wish I could embed the pdf of the original article with the photo
@morountodun- I know the feeling
@catwalq- I've been to London to see the Queen :-)

africa entertainment and sports said...

'..daddy I want to drink small stout'.Huge message.That's reality of Naija today,my brother.

Ekoakete said...

Don't mind form filling actually. It's when I have to look for some other document to complete some section of the form that causes irritation and of course, procrastination... I feel your plumber. There probably 3 or 4 polish plumbers who could do the jobs he did for you at half the price...